A new study suggests the small earthquakes we sometimes feel from the New Madrid fault are not a buildup for another “big one.” The study, in fact, suggests just the opposite.
The study done by researchers at the University of Missouri and at Northwestern University suggests those small earthquakes are actually aftershocks of the earthquake that jolted much of the nation almost 200 years ago. “What we see is a continuous earthquakes with a declining frequency of magnitude,” he says.
Professor Mian Liu at the University of Missouri-Columbia says the study shows little movement along the fault—compared to the continental plates that make up California’s San Adreas fault which are moving at 30 to 35 millimeters a year, building up energy that has to be released.
Some researchers suggest the New Madrid Fault is turning itself off. “Because we don’t see any signs of strength buildup…it comes naturally that now is a very reasonable guess for the time that it’s coming to an end,” he says.
Liu and his co-author say this study, at best, provides more understanding of earthquakes But he cautions that the findings should not be used as predictors. He says Mother Nature has taught scientists over and over again they are wrong.